Oh, my God! 20 shootings, 8 deaths and "a bit of a spike"
From The ODA Blog
Tags: Gun Violence
This is a particularly depressing morning in Baltimore, Maryland. And, that’s really saying something because there are lots of mornings I’d rather be anywhere but Baltimore.
This city will rip your guts out. It will test every ounce of your commitment.
It will make you wish you’d never heard of neighborhoods like Milton-Montford, Oliver, and McElderry Park. You’re drawn in by the strength of the people, by the potential of the children, and by your intuitive sense that life in America shouldn’t look like this. There is debilitating poverty everywhere you turn -- drug dealers, drug users, drug addicts, drug programs, and drug courts always looming in the background. And, yes, the ever-present violence – free market’s dark, evil cousin.
Drug money rules the kingdom -- it’s the dirty little secret that no one in authority wants to address. We scream about crime and criminals but we never talk about the real power center, the money. The billions of dollars that changes hands every year in Baltimore’s illicit drug market. Where does the money end up? Who is really benefiting? Who is being paid under the table to look the other way?
Forty years into Nixon’s “war on drugs,” our only answer is to lock people up, hold them, release them, and then re-arrest them. We place them in jails run by the same gangs that own the streets. We withhold GED classes, job readiness training, and parenting classes unless they’re serving a 5-year minimum sentence. We make it virtually impossible for them to stay in touch with their children and significant others while they’re behind bars even though we know 97% of Marylanders in jail are eventually coming home. This is sheer madness, utter stupidity.
Since last Friday (06/21/13), 20 people have been shot in Baltimore. Eight killed -- two women and six men. In the Baltimore Sun this morning, Carrie Wells writes that city officials are once again revealing their sense of hopelessness and despair, not to mention their own little slice of cynicism. The police spokesperson is quoted as saying, “This is a little bit of a spike in terms of the weekend, but all in all, we’re pretty satisfied with the way the city is headed.” He goes on, “These incidents are going to happen, so we want to set realistic expectations.”
Really City Hall . . . This is the response from the police department that we’re entrusting with public safety? What part of 20 shootings and 8 deaths is satisfactory? How many shootings and deaths does it take to constitute a worrisome spike? But, let’s give the police credit, at least they’re talking. The Sun reports that despite “multiple requests for comment on Sunday on the shootings,” the Mayor could not be reached.
Look, we get it. This is hard stuff. Drugs and murder on America’s poorest streets are par for the course. What do we really expect the Mayor to say, that she has a guaranteed solution, that her administration knows what to do? That’s asking a lot, even of a Mayor we know works hard and really cares. She’s not the enemy. She’s just overwhelmed by the drug game like everyone else who sits in positions of urban authority.
Let’s take some personal ownership of this issue because we’re all in this together. The truth is we’re holding our public officials accountable for the wrong things. The next press conference question and City Council inquiry shouldn’t be about how many people we’ve locked up this week. No. The question that’s begging to be asked and the only question that can lead us to a real solution in the so-called “drug war” is how many “living wage” jobs have you recruited to Baltimore this week, this quarter, this year? How many trips have you taken to business centers in the USA and across the globe to encourage companies to bring their jobs to Oliver and Upton? We’re talking about the kind of jobs that will lure a young man off the corner and give him hope in his belly that he can lead another kind of life and still feed his kids. We’re talking about “upward trajectory” jobs with 40+ hours of work and livable wages.
There really is a larger, more constructive point to be made from this recent trauma and it’s this:
- It’s time for our leaders to lead. Lead with something other than handcuffs and jail. That’s not working.
- It’s time for Baltimore and Maryland elected officials to start screaming at the top of their lungs. Take a day off from your incessant debates over politically-safe, middle-class issues and for just one day, do something risky and edgy: scream really loudly for 24 hours on behalf of the thousands of young men who are still to die in our endless drug war. FYI: voters will give you a pass for this 1-day diversion as long as you don’t make a nuisance of yourself.
- Finally, it’s time for a much stronger response from our elected officials than calls for more prayer walks, social services, neighborhood policing and small grants to run after-schools programs. All of these are very helpful, but if they were determinative, the war would already be over.
This time our response needs to be about jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs! Until Baltimore and Annapolis grab Washington and Wall Street and China by the throat and make them squeal, we’re going to keep burying our young men who can’t see beyond the corner.
This time, let’s ask the right questions so we can get to the right answers. This time, let’s turn 20 shootings and 8 deaths in 7 days into something meaningful and redemptive.
Open Door Baltimore, a nonprofit that fights poverty by working with businesses to provide living-wage jobs, is expanding beyond the beltway. To better reflect the organization’s larger mission, the board of directors recently approved a new identity and logo.Read More